Bottle Or No Bottle, Arsenal Made This Premier League Season Entertaining

They might not have lifted the title, but the Gunners deserve a hefty dose of credit
14:00, 15 May 2023

Okay, so Arsenal bottled the Premier League title. It’s okay to admit that. While the word has been endlessly debated and there are passionate viewpoints shared on both sides, the fact is this is the definition of a bottle job. The Gunners were top of the table for 26 gameweeks of the season. The fact they have been left behind by Manchester City in the closing weeks of the season is a disappointment both to their own fans and to those hoping for a photo finish to close the season.

However, rather than mocking Mikel Arteta’s men for falling away, we should be applauding them. This is a team whose late season slump saw them tumble out of the top four last season. Not only that, but their place was gazumped by arch rivals Tottenham Hotspur. Having to watch Spurs head into the Champions League at their expense would have broken lesser teams. But Arsenal dusted themselves off and embarked on their first genuine title challenge since Arsene Wenger retired.


Imagine how dull this season would have been without Arsenal’s resurgence. Spurs themselves have dropped off from those early months of promise under Antonio Conte. The Italian left in a whirlwind of controversy before his replacement, acting head coach Cristian Stellini, went the same way. Now Ryan Mason is steering them to the end of the season in a temporary capacity.

Several other traditional challengers have been in similar states of disarray this term. Chelsea are languishing in the bottom half of the table and are labouring under their fourth manager of the season, having sacked two permanent head coaches and replaced one interim boss already. Liverpool have gone from the verge of a quadruple to potentially missing out on Champions League football. Manchester United are improving but have struggled to stay the course in a season of transition. Apart from the emergence of Newcastle United as a top four force, it has been slim pickings near the top of the table.


Thank the footballing gods then, for Arsenal. They might have bottled it but at least they got close enough to do so. Leaving the rest of the league in their dust, theirs has been a two-horse race all season long. That race might be as good as over now, with City four points clear at the top with a game in hand. But imagine how boring this Premier League season would have been without it.

Arsenal provided a credible challenge when no other team was capable of doing so. Without Arteta taking his team to the fringes of the promised land, we would have seen the sort of procession Celtic, Bayern Munich and 2010s Juventus made their stock in trade. City have needed the antagonising force of Liverpool to reach new heights in recent years. Without their presence, another team needed to step up and make Pep Guardiola work for what will be his fifth Premier League title. Arsenal have done just that.

Where the Gunners go next will be fascinating. Will they build on the promise of this season to go all the way next year? Or will the demoralising way their campaign imploded knock the stuffing out of them and see them suffer as Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs are doing? That remains to be seen. The talent is there for another run at the biggest prize, but the mental toll a near-miss can take is palpable.

But that is all to come. For now, let’s give credit where it is due. Let’s can the debate over whether Arsenal bottled it or not. Instead let’s take a second to acknowledge how lousy this season would have been without them. Well done Arsenal, they don’t give trophies out for second but they do write articles for it. Hang it on your wall if you like, Mikel.

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